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[peng-gwin, pen-] /ˈpɛŋ gwɪn, ˈpɛn-/
noun, Ornithology
any of several flightless, aquatic birds of the family Spheniscidae, of the Southern Hemisphere, having webbed feet and wings reduced to flippers.
Obsolete, great auk.
Origin of penguin
1570-80; origin uncertain; perhaps < Welsh pen gwyn literally, white head (referring to the great auk in its winter plumage); later misapplied to the Spheniscidae Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for penguin
  • Improve your sense of direction as you race against a rival penguin in an icy maze.
  • The epic saga of an adorable wayward emperor penguin continues.
  • At a glance, it is nearly impossible to identify an individual penguin in a colony of several thousand.
  • Harnessed up and ready to dive, the fat penguin looks as though it has its own mini scuba tank.
  • One species bucked the general trend: the south polar skua, which hunts mainly penguin chicks and eggs.
  • Next up: an undersea exoskeleton that turns the wearer into a giant, cyborg penguin.
  • But the penguin wasn't the only thing she hauled from the slush.
  • Taking advantage of that opening isn't a whole lot easier than mounting an expedition with sled dogs and penguin stew.
  • But one thing that cold weather makes possible is a dancing penguin.
  • Snow falls, traffic crawls, the wind chill would intimidate a penguin.
British Dictionary definitions for penguin


any flightless marine bird, such as Aptenodytes patagonica (king penguin) and Pygoscelis adeliae (Adélie penguin), of the order Sphenisciformes of cool southern, esp Antarctic, regions: they have wings modified as flippers, webbed feet, and feathers lacking barbs See also emperor penguin, king penguin
an obsolete name for great auk
Word Origin
C16: perhaps from Welsh pen gwyn, from pen head + gwyn white
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for penguin

1570s, originally used of the great auk of Newfoundland (now extinct), shift in meaning to the Antarctic bird (which looks something like it, found by Drake in Magellan's Straits in 1578) is from 1580s. Of unknown origin, though often asserted to be from Welsh pen "head" (see pen-) + gwyn "white" (see Gwendolyn), but Barnhart says the proposed formation is not proper Welsh. The great auk had a large white patch between its bill and eye. The French and Breton versions of the word ultimately are from English.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for penguin


  1. A nonflying member of an air force; kiwi (1918+ Royal Air Force)
  2. An actor who wears a tuxedo as part of a crowd scene (1950s+ Movie studio)

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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